death trip (2021)

a witch’s spell: you know what’s happening, you know your weaknesses, you know you’re going down and you feel that sharpening decline. so you sing about it.

death trip is hysterics upon finding a dead body followed by getting drunk and partying with townies, a man smashing bottles, a song interrupted, a lethargic finale; it gets to the central question of whether one can really have self-actualization without other people. it’s a work that understands the meaning of the slasher formula and uses its own act of repetition as cultural incantation trapped between the human and the natural and erasing the separation entirely.

it’s about the way we retreat to scattered yet rich internal lives as a means of evading harm from the elements around us and the ways that hurt invariably seems to follow us there. the film asks whether this hurt comes from others or from ourselves, and whether such a distinction is valuable or even possible. the perils of your personal world are well known if you spend enough time in it. this fear is encompassed in security and exists as a tangible presence here — you can feel it in dreams, in a portrait of a stranger framed by a door left ajar, in the whir of a ceiling fan spinning too fast. these things are important. slashers are, after all, less about the slashing than they are the abrupt addition of a badly-timed thunderstorm, the uneasy sparseness of a summer camp, the bursts of nervous humor that punctuate a nameless dread that cuts deeper with each labored exhale. these are the things that are the least comprehensible — the things that cut the deepest.

one of the best films I’ve ever seen. the next time I feel like I should finally see inland empire, I’m just going to watch this again.

this is hardly the throwback slasher it may seem, but if it is, it’s a throwback to savage weekend, nightmares in a damaged brain, the parts people don’t talk about when they talk about friday the 13th — films rich with moments of unbalance, cold cruelty in comfort and shelter. seeing this film is a deeply unsettling experience that completely caught me off guard — not only because it is part of the small pantheon of aforementioned slashers that really get under my skin, but because death trip emanates from a place I recognize and frequently inhabit. it’s about the mundane terrors of being alive while being female. you notice things but don’t know if you’re supposed to notice these things and you can’t figure out what to make of them anyway. all the while, the truth becomes more obvious and more opaque. the pieces don’t add up as much as they point to something terrifying that you probably already knew.

you can’t help but kind of like the gravity bong guy, despite everything.

of course, it’s tempting to namedrop a bunch of other films in lieu of really saying anything but that’s not to say death trip is derivative in any way — the repetition is more craft (in the fullest sense of the term) than cannibalization. it’s a new spell that evokes its source as a mere step in a series of endless repetitions. for that it’s a major work that deserves consideration beside the blair witch project and malatesta, films which share a low res mega evil patina: a serious dedication to being a total bummer and an unwillingness to allow the circle to close.

this film is a cold embrace without admonishment, a living force to which I can mutually relate on my own terms; the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever had in a slasher film. the central concern here is negative transcendence — it regards the adage that hell is other people as obviously true, but is careful to make it known that our own hell can in fact be a useful place to inhabit. the craft is, essentially, the transference of magick between people. nothing ever occurs in a vacuum.

now tell me do you care for me?
once I cared for you
honey, come and be my enemy
so I can love you true
a sick boy, sick boy fadin out
I love it to be cruel
baby, whip me in the heat
turn me loose on you

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